Have you ever been woken from a drunken slumber to find yourself on a train, being prodded by a ticker inspector demanding to know where you got on? You try to gather your thoughts, to pull info forward from the back of your mind, which seems to take an eternity to get there. That’s what returning to a game is like for me. Vague memories of controls, mechanics, and objectives slowly start to filter forward, but not quickly enough, and I spend a while in a state of confusion.
I returned to Mass Effect 2 after an absence of many months. I’d been a naughty boy, flirting with shooters, cavorting with sports games, even indulging in a full-blown affair with a Playstation. I expected to be about 8 hours into the game. More like 19. That sounds like the kind of thing that would happen with Mass Effect. The game loads and I’m on a ship. My ship. The game is starting to come back to me now; I’m Shepard, a bad-ass space commander. I decide to explore the ship while trying to remember what the hell I’m doing.
I talk to Morlin, and he makes me uncomfortable. I talk to Kelly, who seems to be my PA. I get the option to ask her “What do you do here?”, then ask the same question again immediately afterwards. Doing this would portray Shepard as the kind of person who asks a question but doesn’t listen to the answer, only waiting for his chance to speak. Doing this would make Shepard the most realistic game character ever.
I talk to Jacob, who has strange teeth. This is presumably a graphical defect, but it makes him look like some orally-decorated rapper. Somehow I end up agreeing to look for Jacob’s father on some godforsaken planet. I’m suckered in by a sci-fi cliche: the mysterious distress signal.
After some plinky-plonky space map music, we land. I’m Oscar Mike and ready to go, fiending for some action. Then dramatic music kicks in and I get scared. Perhaps the score envokes memories of the most horrible experience of all: the 80s. Remembering that I can instruct my team (cos I’m a bad-ass space commander), I use them as human shields, telling them to move ahead to where the danger probably is. Both agree to do so. I wait for them to cross my line of sight. Nothing. I tell them again. Still nothing. Can they read my mind?
We find an enormous downed spaceship. I’m disappointed to discover that I can only explore a small part of it. I leave and find a crazy lady on the ground. A cut scene starts and, in the background, a chap does a baseball slide into cover, ready to harm my ass. In an embarrassing moment, I have to stop myself shouting “There’s someone behind you!” as if I was at a pantomime.
The cut scene ends. In heroic fashion, I flee for cover. But I’m still in trouble. I press Back to throw grenades, to no avail (as I’m getting Mass Effect 2 confused with its predecessor). If only I could be invisible. Wait, I can. Hurrah! Cloaking device on, enemies Sam Fishered and killed to bits. Job done.
Then I find a camp full of crazy chicks. I do what anyone would if they found a bunch of women fighting for survival in a forest – raid their camp, then wonder if we can all have sex together. I reach the back of their camp and I’m shot at! Outrageous. I can’t establish where the shots are coming from. Sadly, I panic, and just run in circles, taking me out of the line of fire, then quickly back into it again. Incredibly, I don’t die, and a few shots from my trusty hand-cannon dispatches some evil robots. I forget about the stealing and sex and go hunting for more droids to destroy.
After scrapping some more enemies I approach…bedtime. I turn the Xbox off and go to bed. I think I’ll return to Mass Effect 2, but you never know.
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